Tech Sgt. Stephen Gauche testified he has lived next door to the Klapheke’s since July 2012 but never saw Perez or any of the children.
Dr. Justin Smith – a pediatrician who saw the Klapheke children when they were removed from the home Aug. 28, 2012 – testified the surviving children had developmental delays when they arrived and their skin had formed an adhesive bond with their diapers that had not been changed for days. The diapers caused severe rashes and the injuries had to be treated as burns.
Dr. Jamye Coffman – medical director of the child abuse program at Cook Children’s Medical Center – testified previous appointments at the hospital had been missed and medical neglect became a concern prior to Tamryn’s death. She said the surviving children will likely not suffer permanent scarring from the intense diaper rashes.
A former Child Protective Services investigator testified Perez told him he felt he was keeping the children safe by being the only adult in the home while Tiffany would run errands or be away. Wilcock also testified Perez had an implied agreement to babysit the children on a regular basis – but the children were often in their bedrooms.
The defense argued Perez was more of a house guest than a live-in boyfriend to Tiffany or a father figure to the children. Based on an interview he conducted with Perez, Wilcock said Perez moved into the home after his deployment was cancelled over the summer of 2012 and he did not have a place to stay. Wilcock said Perez initially helped with the children, came to care for them and later developed a sexual relationship with Tiffany. He said Perez never assumed any diaper duties because he thought it was inappropriate for him to do so.
Based on the six-hour interview Tiffany did with Abilene police, the defense claimed Perez was never given a house key and the children were often locked in their rooms and he did not have access to them.
Because of the pending civilian case against Tiffany, Col. Donald Eller – the military judge – denied the defense’s request to grant Tiffany immunity in exchange for testifying. She will not be called as a witness.
After all prosecution witnesses testified Thursday, the defense asked Judge Eller to go ahead and find Perez not guilty of the child endangerment charge against him. Judge Eller denied that request for the time being but still must deliberate once both sides complete their case and make closing arguments.
The defense is expected to call two witnesses Friday. Court will re-convene at 9 a.m.